NASHVILLE — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged Tennessee’s top Republicans to consider a jobs plan to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.
“The surest way to strengthen our state’s fiscal house is to put 300,000 Tennesseans back to work. If Ron Ramsey and Governor Bill Haslam put half the effort they expend wooing big corporate donations into a common sense jobs plan, Tennessee would get there a lot faster.”
Forrester pressed Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey for action on the state’s job crisis in statement Wednesday following the Republicans’ meeting with Wall Street bond rating agencies.
“This bond rating dog and pony show for Wall Street executives looks obnoxious to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are struggling to find work and provide for their families,” Forrester said. “They’d like to see a day where the numbers we brag about are Tennessee’s low unemployment rate and high economic output.
“There’s no doubt Wall Street was impressed with Governor Haslam’s contingency plan to fire 5,000 workers and eliminate crucial services that keep families healthy, children educated and the disabled properly cared for. However, Tennesseans who’ve seen this extreme plan are not so enthusiastic,” Chip Forrester said. “Haslam’s slash-and-burn budget would send our state into an even more severe economic tailspin and prompt a societal crisis that would diminish the quality of life for every Tennessean.”
This summer Gov. Haslam instructed state department heads to plan for 30 percent budget cuts to be enacted if Tennessee receives less federal funding.
Archive for the ‘budget’ Category
NASHVILLE — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged Tennessee’s top Republicans to consider a jobs plan to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.
It’s crystal clear that Tennesseans have soundly rejected the extremist GOP agenda rammed through the state legislature this year.
A new, statewide Vanderbilt University poll found that support for the Republican-led state legislature has “plummeted 20 percentage points since January.”
The GOP honeymoon is over and Tennesseans are riled up like never before over lawmakers stripping teachers of their right to collectively bargain for smaller class sizes, school supplies, and text books while cutting millions from public and higher education budgets.
Attacking teachers and our public schools is outrageous! Please contribute $5 or more to help us fight back. A generous Democrat will match your gifit dollar-for-dollar making your donation go twice as far.
Teachers and public education weren’t the only targets of the GOP.
Since January we have seen a systematic assault on Tennessee values:
- IGNORED JOBS CRISIS. In 2010, Republicans campaigned on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. Less than one year later, the majority party buried its head in the sand and ignored the crisis facing 300,000 Tennesseans looking for work. And since the GOP took charge, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has climbed to nearly 10 percent.
- LAVISH RAISES. Gov. Bill Haslam made cuts to important health programs while handing out more than $250,000 worth of raises to his top cronies, all of whom already made six-figure salaries. One commissioner even got a 32% raise — in his first week on the job!
- PROTECTED PREJUDICE. The GOP gave into the radical right-wing of its party, bowing to demands to overturn Metro-Nashville Council’s CANDO ordinance that required businesses with city contracts to employ non-discrimination hiring policies.
In short Republicans junked their promise to strengthen the state economy and create jobs in favor of ideological pet projects that harm our families and the least among us.
This poll shows that Tennesseans regret giving Republicans a chance behind the wheel and have quickly become sick of their reckless driving.
Tennesseans are not interested in political retaliation against teachers, they want good schools for their children.
Tennesseans are not interested in the anti-woman demands of the far right, they want to make sure their mothers, sisters and babies are healthy and well cared for.
Tennesseans are not interested in protecting reckless corporations from the damage they do, they want to protect victims and hold corporations responsible for their actions.
Republicans have given us no reason to think they will come to their senses in 2012. Last month Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey bragged on Facebook:
“This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course.”
Whatever Ramsey has in mind, you can rest assured it won’t be good for Tennessee.
If you want to stop the GOP’s radical agenda and put Tennessee on a path to a thriving economy where prosperity is shared by all, a path where a good education is available to every student, regardless of their circumstance, a path where government serves the people and is not beholden to moneyed special interest then stand with us.
We can win this fight, but we can’t do it without your support.
“Congress has rejected raising the debt ceiling, so if China calls, let it go to voicemail.” - Stephen Colbert
“odd political theater”
“just for show”
U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott Desjarlias, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher all voted for a budget that raises America’s debt 60% but voted against raising the debt limit.
FACT: Republican Votes Against Raising Debt Ceiling “JUST FOR SHOW.” Tenn. Republicans are happily playing politics with the full faith and credit of the United States. Republicans urged the defeat of their own measure, while Democrats — who not long ago were seeking just such a vote to raise the debt ceiling without attaching spending cuts — assailed Republicans for bringing it up, saying its certain defeat might unnerve the financial markets. Just in case, Republican leaders scheduled the vote for after the stock market’s close, and in the preceding days called Wall Street executives to assure them that the vote was just for show, to show Mr. Obama that he would have to make concessions in budget negotiations if a debt-limit increase is to pass Congress. [New York Times, 6/1/11]
FACT: PAUL RYAN BUDGET WOULD INCREASE U.S. DEBT 60% (& DESTROY MEDICARE). The Paul Ryan Budget that U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott Desjarlias, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher voted for, would raise the debt limit over 60%. Republicans are holding the debt ceiling hostage by claiming that “Washington must begin living within its means.” However, the Paul Ryan budget, supported by every Tennessee Republican U.S. Representative, would increase the national debt (61.5%) from $14.3 trillion today to more than $23.1 trillion by 2021. [Los Angeles Times, 4/15/11]
NOT RAISING THE DEBT LIMIT WOULD BE ‘CATASTROPHIC’
JP Morgan Chase CEO: Raising The Debt Ceiling “It’s A Moral Obligation.” “The U.S. Treasury will officially hit its credit limit around May 16 for the 10th time in 10 years. If House Republicans prolong the fight over raising the debt ceiling past that date, government officials and Wall Street investors agree that it would cause financial chaos. ‘This chatter about not meeting our obligations, I just don’t understand it,’ JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said late last month during an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Dimon is one of the few business leaders who have been outspoken on the issue. ‘It’s a moral obligation to ourselves and anyone who owns U.S. debt,’ he said. ‘They should know the United States is good for its money, period.’” [NPR, 4/13/11]
Chief Economist For The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Said If Congress Didn’t Raise The Debt Limit The Result Would Be Higher Interest Rates , Financial Uncertainty And Damage To The Nation’s Fragile Economy. “Martin Regalia, chief economist for the [U.S. Chamber of Commerce], agrees that there’s no other option but to raise the debt limit. The chamber is lobbying Congress and educating lawmakers about what it could mean if that doesn’t happen: higher interest rates, financial uncertainty and damage to the nation’s fragile economy. Regalia says the ramifications of a default — or even a close call — can be an eye-opener for lawmakers. ‘It’s no reflection on them that they don’t fully understand the nuances of a budget process that I don’t think anyone fully understands.’” [NPR,4/13/11]
“The Debt Problem Won’t Be Resolved – And May Even Be Made Worse – By Not Raising The [Debt Ceiling.” “A number of lawmakers -- some of whom will speak at a Tea Party rally on Thursday -- have said they will not vote to increase the debt limit because it would be fiscally irresponsible. But their rhetoric is misleading because it conflates two different things. There's raising the debt ceiling, which is a technical necessity. Then there is the country's actual debt problem, which is a political and policy matter. Indeed, the debt problem won't be resolved -- and may even be made worse -- by not raising the ceiling.” [CNN Money, 4/1/11]
House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling “It Would Be Catastrophic To Have The Nation Default Upon Its Debt.” “Both House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that not raising the debt ceiling is not an option – although they disagree on how future budgets should address closing the budget gap. ‘What I do think is, yes, it would be catastrophic to have the nation default upon its debt,’ Hensarling said.” [Hill, 4/10/11]
House Speaker Boehner Said Defaulting On The Debt By Not Raising The Ceiling “Would Be A Financial Disaster, Not Only For Us, But For The Worldwide Economy.” “The possibility of the U.S. defaulting on its debt due to congressional inaction isn’t on the table, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday. Boehner said it would mean ‘financial disaster’ for the global economy if Congress were unable to come to a deal to raise the debt ceiling this spring. ‘That would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy,’ Boehner said on ‘Fox News Sunday’ of the risk of default. ‘I don’t think it’s a question that’s even on the table.’” [Hill, 1/30/11]
The Jackson Sun opinion editor Tom Bohs recently took Republicans to task for their vote to radically change Medicare into a
vulture voucher system. The Paul Ryan, budget wonks say, would increase the out-of-pocket cost of health care for seniors by more than $6,500 a year.
Sens. Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander voted for it. As did Reps. Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlias, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher.
From The Jackson Sun:
Republicans shot themselves in the foot by proposing to end traditional Medicare and replace it with vouchers for private insurance. If they don’t drop this scheme, it will cost them dearly in the 2012 election cycle.
Not only would privatizing Medicare through a system of insurance premium vouchers wildly complicate the purchase of health insurance for senior citizens, it is unnecessary.
Not only would privatizing Medicare through a system of insurance premium vouchers wildly complicate the purchase of health insurance for senior citizens, it is unnecessary. Seniors already have private insurance options under Medicare through Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplement plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. The only thing the voucher system would take away is the government option for Part A (hospital) and Part B (doctor services) that seniors know and largely love — talk about biting the hand that votes for you.
Under the voucher plan proposed by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, seniors would be allotted money they could spend on health insurance purchased through private insurance companies. The advantage, according to Ryan and other Republicans, is that people would be able to choose the health insurance that best suits their needs.
That is the biggest false hope I have ever heard perpetrated on old people. What is the best health insurance policy for anyone? The best policy is the one that pays the bills when you get sick without splitting hairs over whether a particular illness, procedure, service, doctor or medication is excluded in the fine print of the insurance contract.
It is a fallacy that different people have different health insurance needs. What health problem don’t you want coverage for? The idea that some people are in better health than others and don’t need as much health insurance is nonsense. No one can predict life’s illnesses and health mishaps, let alone those of old age. It would be like buying car insurance that only covered you on some days of the week.
The other reason Ryan’s approach to privatizing Medicare to save money surprises me is that it is unnecessary. The system is solvent for many years to come. Shortfalls after that easily can be addressed long before they materialize. Ryan is solving a problem that doesn’t exist, and making seniors and other voters angry in the process. He should focus on problems that are real and on the table right now such as the national debt, high unemployment, mortgage defaults and a host of social, military and international affairs challenges we face.
But the thing I find most disturbing about privatizing Medicare is that it complicates the last bastion of senior citizen comfort. People who are old, sick or near the end of life don’t want to be burdened with complicated insurance decisions. Can Republicans not let old people just finish out their years with peace of mind without a lot of rah-rah, take responsibility, every man for himself flag waving? All that’s fine when you’re young or 40 or 50 and still building your lifestyle and personal security. But when you are 70 or 80 or older, the last thing you need is a bunch of insurance companies trying to get their hands in your pocket.
The final problem with Ryan’s Medicare voucher scheme is that it might not – and I would hazard an educated guess it would not – be sufficient to purchase health insurance that would provide anywhere near the coverage afforded by Medicare. What would people do when their benefits ran out? Ryan doesn’t address that. Again, it would be every man for himself. Of course, there might still be Medicaid available to those brought to penury by uncovered medical expenses. But that only puts the burden on others, to say nothing of the emotional and psychological blow it would inflict on seniors.
Good grief. Medicare works. Leave it alone and find something to tinker with that really needs fixing. [Jackson Sun, 5/28/11]
FACTS & BACKGROUND:
REALITY: TENNESSEE’S ENTIRE REPUBLICAN U.S. HOUSE & SENATE DELEGATION VOTED FOR THE PAUL RYAN BUDGET
Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander voted for Paul Ryan’s budget to privatize Medicare. [Senate.gov Roll Call Vote, 5/25/11]
Tennessee’s entire Republican delegation (Reps. Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Stephen Fincher) voted to turn Medicare into a voucher system. [U.S. House Clerk, April 15, 2011]
REALITY: REP. RYAN’S VOUCHER SYSTEM WOULD COST SENIORS THOUSANDS IN OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES
The Economist: Rep. Paul Ryan’s Plan Shifts The Burden Of Risk Onto Seniors By Only Delivering A Voucher For An Amount Ryan Thinks Ought To Be Enough For Health Care, Not Guaranteeing All Care. [Economist, 4/5/11]
Politifact: Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Would Force The Average Senior Receiving Medicare To Pay $6,350 More Out-Of-Pocket For Health Care. [Politifact, 5/6/11]
Center for Economic Policy Research: A Person Born In 1957 At Age 65 Will Require An Additional $182,000 In Retirement Savings In Order To Purchase Private Insurance Rather Than Accept Coverage Through Medicare. [Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Letter to Rep. George Miller”]
REALITY: THE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ENDS MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT
Wall Street Journal: “The [GOP Budget] Plan Would Essentially End Medicare.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]
Los Angeles Times: “Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization Plan Increases Costs, Budget Office Says.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/8/11]
CBO: The Ryan Budget Plan Would Increase Debt In The First Ten Years. [TPM, 4/5/11]
The Fiscal Times: “The Big Winners” In The Republican Budget Would Be “High Income Earners And Corporations, Who Top Tax Rate Would Be Reduced From 35 To 25 Percent.” [Fiscal Times, 4/5/11]
REALITY: THE REPUBLICAN BUDGET RELIES ON “QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTIONS” AND “FISHY FIGURES”
Washington Post: “The Ryan Budget Plan Relies On Dubious Assertions, Questionable Assumptions And Fishy Figures.” [Washington Post, 4/9/11]
National Journal: “Ryan Plan Pushes Optimism To The Outer Limits.” [National Journal, 4/5/11]
Political reporters this weekend reported on the overwhelming influence of money in state politics.
Long story short: with Republicans in charge, there’s more money — from rich and powerful interests — in state politics than ever before.
And with the new GOP rules that raise contribution limits and allow direct donations from businesses, the influence of special interest groups — not hard-working citizens who can’t afford lobbyists — is only going to increase.
“Lobbyists had busy year in Nashville,” Times Free Press:
Special interests this year spent millions of dollars seeking to influence the Tennessee General Assembly on issues ranging from a proposed cap on personal injury lawsuit awards to letting grocery stores sell wine, records show.
Fights in these and other areas, including education policy and telecommunications competition, often played out not only in committee rooms and on the House and Senate floor but behind the scenes in lawmakers’ offices, legislative corridors and sometimes lavish receptions for lawmakers.
Groups also spent money in more public ways with studies, telemarketing campaigns and advertising aimed at encouraging the public to pressure legislators.
In the view of Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga: “Special interests play an outsized role in our government and especially in our legislature.”
“Obviously, what we do affects wholesale industries, but it’s difficult not to look at what goes on in the legislature and worry about the individual citizen having his proper say, also,” Berke said.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, countered that lobbyists represent Tennesseans who don’t have time to come to the legislature every day.
“It’s good for anyone to get their story in front of the legislators, especially the legislators that aren’t necessarily familiar with the issue. In that way, I think just anyone coming to see you would be helpful to their cause,” McCormick said.
Moreover, he said, “We can’t stop people from lobbying. I think the First Amendment makes it clear that people can come lobby, so we have set up a system where they have to at least report who’s paying them.”
Nearly $520,000 was spent in total. That’s according to filings on the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance website. But it was only a fraction of lobbying costs. The reporting period came seven weeks before the May 21 end of the legislative session, so many totals will be higher.
Other lobby disclosures reveal scrambling by Amazon.com to fend off lawmakers and retailers who hoped to force it to collect state sales taxes at distribution centers it is building in Chattanooga and Bradley County.
Amazon increased its lobbying staff from one to 10, records show.
AT AN ADVANTAGE
Dick Williams with the watchdog group Tennessee Common Cause, said that when combined with campaign contributions, groups that lobby at the Capitol have an advantage.
Businesses, in particular, benefit, he said.
“It just flies in the face that lobbying and contributions don’t influence legislation,” Williams said. Companies “want to get results that directly affect their bottom line.”
“$519,000 Used To Entertain State Lawmakers,” WSMV:
Special interest groups spent at least $519,000 this year wining and dining state lawmakers. Last year, even though the legislative session was longer, only $390,000 was spent.
“You’ve got a lot of new legislators that special interests or lobbying groups want to ‘educate’ to their issues,” said Dick Williams of Common Cause of Tennessee, a voter watchdog group.
The five of the most expensive events were:
- The Farm Bureau spent more than $23,000 on a luncheon
- AT&T shelled out $22,000 for a reception
- The Hospital Association spent $18,000
- The School Board Association
- The Chamber of Commerce reported events costing $17,000.
AT&T had a bill opposed by small phone companies up in the Legislature. The hospital association was a big backer of capping lawsuit damages. The School Board Association was the force behind this year’s most controversial issue: ending collective bargaining for teachers.
“Corporations and for-profit companies don’t spend that kind of money on something they don’t feel is going to bring them some return either financial or otherwise,” said Williams.
“Interest groups wined, dined TN lawmakers,” The Tennessean:
Special interest groups and lobbyists, ranging from the Tennessee Concrete Association to the Tennessee Bar Association, hosted 75 events, according to reports filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
“We’re always dealing with concentrated benefits and distributed costs,” said community activist and tea party leader Ben Cunningham. “That’s the reality of government. Everybody pays for it, and in many cases the recipients of government largess are small groups, small corporations … who can justify spending huge amounts of money on attaining special favors. That’s the nature of the beast.”
Money buys access
Cunningham said the average citizen has a difficult time getting the attention of his state senator or representative the way special interest groups can with expensive events.
“Money means access, and access means power,” Cunningham said. “That is very much true in politics today. It’s probably going to continue to be true, unfortunately.”
Other expensive events were held by corporations including AT&T, which hosted a reception with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres, at a cost of $22,406.39.
Chattanooga Times Free Press Rails Against Bank Influence. “It’s pretty obvious that the Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly puts the interests of banks ahead of those of the average Tennessean. Why else would legislators be in such a rush to approve a law that would significantly reduce the advance warning home-owners receive before their property is foreclosed? The only plausible explanation is that legislators are far more willing to do the bidding of the well-heeled bankers and their lobbyists than to properly serve and protect those who elected them to office. [“Foreclosure bill is bad law,” Chattanooga Times Free Press Editorial Board, 5/13/11]
Gov. Bill Haslam Hosts GOP Fundraiser During Legislative Session. The lavish soirée was held March 31 at the governor’s mansion in the “the party room.” Tickets ranged from $3,000 to $25,000. [Humphrey on the Hill, May 23, 2011]
Haslam Flaunts Fundraising Ethics Rules. State law bans fundraising by legislators while the General Assembly is in session. It was passed years ago to address public perceptions that lawmakers were “shaking down” special interests with business being considered by the legislature. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 3/22/11]
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has a bad habit of croonyism and cooking up special government deals for his friends. Sadly, for the Lt. Governor, it’s business as usual.
News Channel 4 has the most recent story:
Legislative Staffers Get Raises During Freeze
Those Given Pay Hikes Worked For Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
The I-Team found Lt. Gov. and Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey approved pay hikes for 18 senate staffers last fiscal year at the same time both former Gov. Phil Bredesen and the Legislature didn’t allow raises for the other 42,825 employees of the state.
They even sent state workers a letter letting them know raises were not possible because of state budget constraints.
So how did these staffers get raises?
Records obtained by the I-Team show the staffers got what’s called a “classification upgrade.” That’s when a raise is given to keep a salary competitive.
These staffers didn’t get a promotion. They didn’t receive more schooling to earn a higher salary. They just got it because Ramsey felt they deserved it.
“There’s nothing wrong with that — nothing,” said Ramsey.
“Do you think the rest of state workers, when they learn of these classification upgrades, will feel that way?” asked I-Team reporter Caroline Moses.
“I do,” Ramsey said.
Not long ago, Ramsey was caught with his hand in the taxpayer cookie jar on behalf of his rich friend. The Daily News Journal broke the story, but their archives have covered up the story. The Knoxville News Sentinel blogged about it though.
Ramsey seeks to reduce friend’s property taxes
Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal had a great real-estate scoop this week:
A developer with 187 acres of vacant land off Medical Center Parkway would get a $273,058 tax break if proposed legislation by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey were the law today.
Ramsey’s bill would cap appraisal increases on vacant land at 25 percent …
Ramsey, an East Tennessee Republican, said he came up with the idea after learning his friend and constituent C.M. Gatton of Bristol faces the higher tax bill based on land in Murfreesboro he owns that was recently reappraised at about $30 million …
If (the assessor’s) value remains in place, Gatton faces an annual tax bill of about $282,758 for both commercial and residential land. That’s in addition to city taxes owed on the property.
“Nobody can afford that,” Ramsey said during a phone interview this past week.
The Daily News Journal was none too happy with Ramsey’s legislative meddling:
Editorial: Lt. Gov.’s tax break bill unfair to county
12:00 AM, Apr. 14, 2011
But Ramsey, who admitted he came up with the idea for the bill after learning about Gatton’s situation, wants to help his friend even more. Under his proposed legislation, the reappraisal would only raise the value of Gatton’s land to $1.6 million, resulting in an annual tax bill of $9,701.
“It’s not fair,” Boner told The Daily News Journal. “I’m not against a rich man making millions, but he still has to pay his fair share of taxes. … If they pass this law, it’s not going to be good to anybody. It’s going to cost the county billions in assessed value. It will be millions in tax dollars.
“Somebody is going to make up the difference.”
And that “somebody,” Boner refers to, is the rest of us taxpayers.
More than lost revenue, this bill is just plain wrong and an abuse of office by the lieutenant governor. It is a favor for a friend that could have far-reaching effects on our county’s strained coffers as well as those of others.
Ramsey’s legislation has not moved through the General Assembly’s committee process, and we hope it never does.